Club Insider

Are You Still Playing Monkey in the Middle?

Why It's Happening in Your Market and What You Can Do About It!

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Ron AlterioRon Alterio

Remember the game Monkey in the Middle? A few kids, one ball and a whole lot of frustration for the one in the middle. Fast forward to today's hyper-competitive fitness markets, and everywhere you turn, it seems there is another Boutique Studio opening to your left and a High-Volume, Low-Price (HV/LP) model opening to your right. Instead of you just trying to win a simple game with friends, now it's your business that's caught right in the middle of a genuine fight for survival. Rather than jumping, reaching or pivoting to try and catch a simple ball, you are now forced to do everything in your power to prevent your members from jumping right over your head and right into the hands of your competitors.

In order to shift the balance of power back in your favor, it's imperative to rewind and explore the origins of how your business may have ended up "in the middle" in the first place.

Although competition was on the rise and promises of fast results and amazing customer service were widespread in the early to mid-2000s, the reality was that most operators simply focused on offering more stuff: more cardio equipment, more free weights and more group exercise classes. Very few actually focused on delivering on the promise and servicing the true customer need, which was offering a relevant and meaningful onboarding experience, coupled with access to viable fitness solutions that fostered lasting results. As a result, members started to tire of the stale and empty lip service emanating from the health club industry.

Enter the High-Volume, Low-Price (HV/LP) Model

Borne out of this frustration came a new breed of health clubs. Larger, shinier, cleaner and newer facilities with more equipment for a fraction of the price quickly peppered the national landscape. More importantly, the new consumer narrative was simple, clear and void of any erroneous claims: "We have everything you could ever need to exercise, but you are on your own, and we will charge you accordingly." As a result, this inexpensive, straight forward, honest and no-nonsense approach to serving the market was met with unbridled acceptance.

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